Tanya Brennan: Tips For Hiring Top Mortgage Talent During the Pandemic


PERSON OF THE WEEK: The COVID-19 crisis has presented many challenges for mortgage lenders and servicers alike – but one of the biggest problems to solve is how to attract and hire quality talent that is a proper match for a company’s values and culture.

Hiring virtually, without meeting in-person, can sometimes have its drawbacks – not the least of which is mismatched values, which leads to increased turnover. But as Tanya Brennan, president and managing partner of mortgage technology consultancy PhoenixTeam, explains in a recent interview with MortgageOrb, there are certain steps that can be added to the interview process to ensure that nearly every candidate is a good match.

Q: During the past three years, 63% of CFOs have reported an increase in an employee turnover, with 80% being the result of poor hiring decisions. At this crucial time, with mortgage lenders busier due to the pandemic and low rates, what steps can a company take to prevent this – and ensure a prospective employee is the right fit? 

Brennan: PhoenixTeam often needs to move fast with hiring decisions. However, our speed to hire does not negate our goal to onboard team members who truly fit our culture, meet or exceed the requirements of the role and want to grow professionally. We have implemented a robust, three-part interview process that supports our hiring goals. 

While a candidate’s performance in an interview is critical, it is equally as important for us to have confidence in a candidate’s writing style and competency. At each step in the interview process, we ask that candidates provide short-write ups on what they perceive to be a good corporate culture, answer a role-specific scenario and create a presentation related to the position for which they are applying. We know the importance in bringing on only the best talent to support our clients and this approach has been extremely successful for our organization.

Q: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the unemployment rate is at 8.4% due to the pandemic. How can candidates stand out against competition as top talent?

Brennan: We believe that all things start with a clear, focused resume with success metrics outlined.

When candidates apply for a position, the first thing we do is look for the experience required for the role. If a candidate is applying for a specific role, his/her/their resume should articulate the experience in that role.

In this virtual environment, it is also mission critical for candidates to be prepared to be on camera and deliver presentations without delay or technical issues. We encourage candidates to do a trial run of the virtual meeting software and let us know of any connectivity issues so adjustments can be made prior to the interview.

Strong candidates exude a confidence and expertise in the subject matter and present themselves in an organized and professional manner. 

Q: The pandemic caused many businesses to shift to working remotely. Those that were operating remotely already had a culture built without relying on an office space. What are some ways to engage employees and build culture digitally? 

Brennan: PhoenixTeam is a 100% remote organization with team members across the U.S. We have always nurtured a strong remote culture; however, COVID-19 prompted us to re-evaluate and strengthen our digital bond.

The power of cameras is real. One of the fundamental goals we have for every team or company meeting is to bring enough energy that our team members want to use their cameras, want to share and want to be seen. We also host regular virtual coffee breaks as well as activities like trivia, virtual Law & Order Murder Mystery Parties, yoga for kids and walkathons. 

Q: What can mortgage lenders and servicers do right now to ensure they have the right technology in place to meet increased consumer demand? 

Brennan: Lenders and servicers need to be laser focused on understanding their client’s needs for today as well as in the future. Client needs are shifting rapidly and, if lenders and servicers want to move as fast as client demands change, their systems and infrastructure need to be scalable and support continuous deployments. 

Lenders and servicers should not ignore the digitally dominant environment we are in right now. As they explore new ideas and strategies to expand their digital reach, they should consider spinning up an architecture review squad to evaluate and plan for a high touch, high volume digital experience.

Q: The pandemic has caused many companies to move up the implementation of systems, what is the next big thing mortgage companies should be looking at to ensure they are competitive and provide a great customer experience?

Brennan: Mortgage industry companies that empathize with their customers’ experiences to solve the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic will be best positioned to offer solutions that solve those challenges and build trust.

Whether customers are looking to refinance their mortgage, notarize a document virtually or understand what options they have to retain their homes during times of financial difficulty, lenders and servicers need to offer a virtual and frictionless customer experience that meet their needs. With the pandemic, this is no longer a differentiator but a must have.

Additionally, lenders and servicers must accommodate for increased volumes, rapidly changing regulations and a more interactive process with customers and stakeholders to include investors, GSEs and private mortgage insurers.

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